So I've made the Toyone Anthology...
Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
41Trip End Ongoing
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I suppose I could, and should, start with my most memorable experience in Japan so far: the ekiden. But I've already written an entry on this, and it would seem like bragging to just go on about how special everyone made me feel. Instead, I'd like to share my experience with the people here to build on the idea of community. I believe a large part of what ties people to a particular place is what they do there together. Anyone can go someplace alone, but what attaches to a particular spot is the people that make it special through shared memories.
My first surprise was Sports Day. I had met previously a couple times at night for this, and laughed as me and some old farts attempted a few home-brewed and traditional activities. It was a disaster. I was assigned the 6-legged race (or 3 man race), also called Mukade. I think I fell more times at the Sports festival than during practice, since they switched my partners on me the day of, but I think the falling part was unavoidable. There was three guys wearing pink afros that were just flying, however. It was like they trained all year for that one moment. Weeeird. I think I might omit commenting on them.
But what surprised me most was just the way these people approached the events. They gave everything they absolutely had. And even more surprising, was they wanted me to be part of it. No matter how awkward, how embarassing, the people would coax me on to try their game, and would laugh with me as we both failed to do it successfully. Win or lose, it was just for fun. And it created memories that I'll never forget.
And then there was the eki-den. Seeing that I had an interest in sports, the local Board of Education asked me if I would join their relay-race team for a tournament. They never told me how big it was, and I hesitated at first, since I had the 1/2 marathon coming up. Again, I didn't regret taking part in it at all. When Toukai television got wind of my sign-up, being the only foreigner to run this race was all they needed to make a story out of me. I had in-class interviews, and recordings done both before the race and after.
but that's not what mattered. When fame knocks on your door, whenever it comes, it's too easy to let it go to your head. It's short-lived, and almost certain to make other people envious of your situation. All you can do it laugh at yourself for being so lucky, and try to be modest by downplaying it. But it was like the people didn't WANT me to downplay it. They kept putting me up on a pedestal, cheering me on when I was hanging my head in embarrassment, and making it well known that I was running for them.
That's when I think I realized why this community is so amazing. They take a visitor, anyone it might be, whether they are a foreigner or a visitor from another part of Japan, and make them feel more than welcome: they make them a part of their community. They get them involved in community events, sporting events, enkais (drinking parties), concerts and talent shows, traditional spear-fishing, hunting, you name it. Now tell me if we do that back at home, whether it be in the city or a small town.
I've never really been an outsider before, even at the various high-schools I went to. So it's hard for me to tell whether or not Kapuskasing or Ottawa is as proactive about making its inhabitants feel a welcome part of the community. One of the things I've learned about my trip to Japan so far, is how hard it can be to adjust to a foreign culture, a different job, a different landscape, and a different support network. I had no idea how landed immigrants must feel in Canada, or the US. I had no idea how young adults felt when moving to a new place, away from everything they're familiar with.
And even though I'm addicted to the idea and experience of change, it can still be a very difficult thing to do. I have to say that Japan, no, Toyone Village, is probably one of the easiest places for one to feel at home at such a remarkable rate.
My extended stay here will be one I will try my best to take advantage of, both with giving back to the community and at school.
Now that i've tallied the words...I think I surpassed 60 by about 4 or 5 hundred. Either way, hope you enjoyed reading this!